The Washington Times - January 31, 2013, 05:50PM

After taking D.C. United from the MLS cellar to within a game of the league title match, coach Ben Olsen on Thursday got a vote of confidence from the front office, which exercised the option year on his contract a season ahead of schedule.

The 35-year-old now is under contract through the 2014 campaign.

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“Ben has had the leading role in rebuilding D.C. United and he is extremely deserving to have his option exercised a year in advance,” general manager Dave Kasper said. “We are very excited about our future with Ben as our head coach.”

Olsen, a fan favorite during a playing career with United from 1998 to 2009, took over as interim coach in August 2010, inheriting a 3-12-3 team from Curt Onalfo that finished the season 6-20-4. After United publicly ruled out Olsen for the full-time job, the front office flip-flopped and signed him to a three-year contract that November.

He then went 9-13-12 in his first full season before compiling a 17-10-7 mark last year, leading United to the Eastern Conference final.

That turnaround earned Olsen a spot on the short list for Coach of the Year. The American veteran of the 2000 Olympics and 2006 World Cup also served as the MLS All-Star coach in July, helming an all-league squad that defeated European champion Chelsea FC 3-2.

“I appreciate the commitment and loyalty this club has given me over the years,” Olsen said. “Hopefully I can continue to repay this organization with results and a team that our community is proud of.”

This offseason, Olsen has been joined in the head coaching ranks by two teammates from United’s 2004 MLS Cup-winning side: Toronto FC’s Ryan Nelsen and the New York Red Bulls’ Mike Petke.

United open Olsen’s third full season March 2 at the Houston Dynamo.